Dan and David

You know, one of the things I love about the Gospel of Jesus and the Kingdom of God is that Jesus invites us to give up what is keeping us from a relationship with Him, with our world, and with each other, and find a better way. He was constantly forgiving people’s sins, and healing people, and in the process, restoring them to their communities again. And the greatest thing about Jesus is he was willing to die for what he believed in, which is that the world can be made right, justice can come to our societies, and healing can come to our souls: through the power of his life, death, and resurrection we are invited to share in his work of bringing spiritual, physical, emotional, communal healing to the world, by being transformed in the grace and love of God. Participating in that story is the mahi that I’m about.

And it’s my belief in this God revealed in Scripture to us, that has meant in the last two weeks I’ve been deeply troubled by the political discourse coming from the MP for Epsom and the National candidate in the Northcote by-election.  David Seymour, the Act Party leader and MP for Epsom sent a letter to his constituents about a Housing New Zealand development in his electorate which he argued would bring in undesirable people with mental health issues into the neighbourhood and cause security risks and trouble for those already living there. In the Northcote election, Dan Bidios said that new affordable housing developments in the area would cause an increase in crime. He later backpedalled when he was asked how the link could be made between the two.

I’m just going to lay my cards right out on the table. David, Dan, statements like that are what weaken our nation. We are all in this thing together. What I mean by that is we are a nation, we are a city, we are local communities, made up of all kinds of people, and that means we are each other’s responsibility. But unfortunately rhetoric like yours serves only to insulate some of us from the rest of us. Barriers between us make us weaker. I’m going to call it. You both only have the interests of people like yourselves in mind. People who are middle-to-upper class. People who have made it. People who have wealth, and security.

If you stopped and asked yourselves what is at the root of crime, mental illness, and poverty, you would realise that inequality in our society, separation, segregation, all reinforced by the worry that people over there will discolour our patch over here, lies at the heart of these issues in the first place.[1] Let that sink in a little, would you? You are reinforcing the issues that lie at the foundation of what you are trying to protect yourselves from. Counter intuitively, healing for people who’ve committed crimes, people with mental illness, and people in poverty, is inextricably linked to us all embracing one another. Can you not see beyond your own interests, to the extent that you have missed the humanity in others who have a different life story to your own?

What you have said in the last few weeks shows your true colours. And it worries me. Because I passionately, firmly, believe that one of the great tragedies of our society is that we don’t actually know each other well. And if politicians espouse views like yours, then we will not see our communities come together and move forward because it will entrench ideologies that prop up inequality and division.

I have lived in the Epsom electorate, and in the Northcote one. I am linked to both of your communities. At the moment I work as a pastor of rangatahi in in West Auckland, in an area people like yourselves, it seems, would think no good could come from. But people said that kind of thing about Nazareth too, and look what came from there: Emmanuel  – Jesus Christ. Good comes from all people, if we are able to see their humanity, reach across the fence and stand united as a community. Until we can see the humanity in each other and treat one another with dignity, we will stand divided as a nation and weaker as a result. So I ask you, retract your statements, apologise.

Then come and see.

I’d love to connect face to face, and talk about this some more. I am sure you are both very busy, but if you’d like to meet, I can be found at jharris@auckanglican.org.nz.  Perhaps I can show you round my neighborhood, introduce you to some friends, and maybe have you over for dinner.

[1] The entire book, The Spirit Level, is an academic consolidation of research that shows this.

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